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Startup Profile: The Actives Factory

autumn birch trees

The Actives Factory prepares the natural chemicals found in birch tree bark for use in environmentally friendly cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and more. The company is based on scientific discoveries by Pavel Krasutsky, director of the Chemical Extractives Laboratory at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute.

Technology

The birch tree has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to protect itself from harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses by producing natural chemicals. Studies show these compounds, found in the trees’ bark, kill bacteria and prevent the growth of viruses, making them ideal for use in many different personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos and body lotions. The Actives Factory uses patented technology invented at the U of M to extract beneficial chemicals from the bark on an industrial scale, which can then be sold wholesale to manufacturers.

Potential Impact

Birch bark is a widely available byproduct left over from pulp and paper mills. Rather than discarding it through burning, the Actives Factory puts this resource to use, processing it into a form that can be used in a wide range of everyday cosmetic and hygiene products, as well as many pharmaceuticals that treat serious illnesses. With its natural ability to limit inflammation, bacterial infection and virus growth, birch bark is an effective ingredient in medicines and completely safe for human use.

“It is estimated that more than 60 percent of pharmaceutical drugs on the market had their start from natural ingredients. The compounds found in the outer bark of the birch tree have unique bioactivity that has sparked research interest among pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments for cancer, HIV, tuberculosis and other devastating diseases. The Actives Factory is currently supplying these companies with the raw, natural materials they need for this research and providing a sustainable, renewable source of these amazing compounds for the treatments that succeed.” — Brian Garhofer, president and CEO, The Actives Factory

 Milestones

  • The Actives Factory was formed in 2012 by CEO Brian Garhofer using technology developed by U of M researcher Pavel Krasutsky.
  • The Actives Factory started up production at their Two Harbors, Minn., facility in summer 2014.
  • The company recently completed a round of debt and equity funding to accommodate the market growth projected for 2015. Sales will be primarily be in pharmaceutical and cosmetic ingredients, with sales to the dietary supplement industry starting in 2016.

People

Brian Garhofer, The Actives Factory President and CEO

Brian Garhofer has more than 30 years’ industry experience focusing on business development, strategic planning and operations for early stage and growth companies. Garhofer’s skills have been applied over a broad range of industries and startups, including e-commerce, renewable energy, agricultural services, computer maintenance and technology development. Since 2009, Garhofer has worked with the Natural Resources Research Institute to assist their scientists in the development and commercialization of applied research.

Pavel Krasutsky, Ph.D., U of M Chemical Extractives Laboratory Director

Pavel Krasutsky received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Kiev Polytechnic Institute in Ukraine and is currently the director of the Chemical Extractives Laboratory, part of the Natural Resources Research Institute. Krasutsky has more than 30 years’ experience in organic chemistry research, with expertise focused the mechanisms of organic reactions, the synthesis of biologically active compounds and the chemistry of chemical extractives, among other fields. He has authored nearly 160 papers for publication in national and international chemistry journals and holds 20 patents.

The Actives Factory was launched in October 2012 and is located in Two Harbors, Minn.

theactivesfactory.com

Each month Inquiry features a startup company launched by the University of Minnesota based on U of M technology. To learn more about university startups, visit the Office for Technology Commercialization.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer and public relations associate with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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